Jazz interview with jazz bassist Colin Edwin. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Colin Edwin: – I was born in Australia, but grew up just outside London, in the UK. I guess it was inevitable I would get into music, as I was surrounded by it since I was very small. My siblings all played instruments and my father played jazz guitar.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the your musical instrument? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the your musical instrument?
CE: – As a young child I resisted learning an instrument, but later on I was spending so much time listening, I felt I wanted to try and play something. The bass was suggested, by my mother, perhaps she thought my father would like to have a bass player in the family as my older brother already played guitar. Somewhat reluctantly my father bought me a second hand jazz bass, a cheap Asian copy instrument which got me started. Years later, my mother told me she suggested the bass because, as a toddler I would gravitate to the upright bass whenever my dad had other musicians round for a play.
Anyway, by an amazing coincidence, within a few weeks of owning a bass, I met a top UK session bass player who was kind enough to show me, in a very casual way, some really useful technical things and working skills. I took an informal path, I sought out some other bass players for guidance, practiced on my own and the rest of the time it was really “on the job training”…lots of gigs in different circumstances with all sorts of bands.
My father did encourage me to take a couple of jazz courses, so as well as getting an appreciation of jazz, I learnt to improvise and play standards.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
CE: – I gravitated to the fretless bass quite early on, I think the expressive and sometimes abstract possibilities appealed to me immediately. I’ve put a lot of practice time into making a good sound, and having as clean a technique as I possibly can. Later on, recording became an obsession, and listening back to myself critically and evaluating dispassionately in order to focus in things I needed to improve.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
CE: – I have found working on rhythmic things to be especially inspiring, I can take something quite basic and just play with shifting it around. For example, taking an obvious rhythm and displacing it by fractions of beats, you can end up with something much more interesting. But generally I just try and find anything to play that’s outside of my comfort zone and if I like it, I try and assimilate it in some way.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
CE: – In all honesty I am not one for having favourite things, I like variety and I like to explore. However, I have a new found appreciation for the harmonies of Eastern Europe, especially after working with two marvelous singers from Kiev. We made an album together (as Astarta/Edwin) a few years back.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
CE: – That’s a good question! It is of course impossible to ignore intellectual and technical concerns, wether you are thinking about yourself as a player and your role in things, or perhaps some aspect of the recording process, but more and more I try to think and focus on the emotional and transcendent (for want of a better word) aspects, the soulful part if you will. The aim is to reach, beyond words, to somewhere transportive, for the listener and yourself.
JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?
CE: – Everything is really part of an ongoing process, for me, and there’s no particular goal I have in mind, so everything has equal importance to me, wether it’s a collaborative project or simply an opportunity to play and “do my thing”.
That said I value enormously the experience I gained working with Geoff Leigh (as Ex-Wise Heads we made six albums together) and also the time just after Porcupine Tree finished when I started collaborating separately with both Eraldo Bernocchi and Jon Durant, two very different guitarists but who are both extremely open and with whom I still enjoy working, the successful results gave me a lot of confidence.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
CE: – Things evolve wether you like it or not, so I am not so sure it’s necessary to lament the waning popularity of the Great American Songbook. Times have changed and people simply can’t have the same connection to some of the older tunes that their parents or grandparents might have had. If you take a broader definition of jazz there is still plenty of good stuff coming out all the time.
I like to think that a lot of the classic era of jazz is pretty much timeless, the artists may be inactive, even dead, but real, authentic human expression and passion doesn’t date.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
CE: – I am not sure life has an overall meaning, like it or not the universe is indifferent to us all. That said, I believe that there is much more going on than we can clearly perceive, we sometimes get glimpses of things beyond the rational mundane everyday world. As for music, I do believe that is has a life of it’s own, it can take on a deep meaning to others in a way that you never intended.
JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?
CE: – For myself, I have never been one for planning too far in advance, it may be a failing of mine, but tend to think quite short term. I think the ability to carry on, in these uncertain times is success of a kind.
On a more global level, I’ve been worried about the single use plastic waste issue for some years and I am glad to see it seems to be coming much more to the fore in recent months. It’s a huge problem and probably a bigger threat than we all realize.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
CE: – I’d like to see better behavior from the big tech companies with regards to copyright and fair renumeration for creators of all kinds.
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
CE: – I’m in the closing stages of a second Twinscapes album with my bass playing Italian friend Lorenzo Feliciati.
For some time, we’ve been performing successfully as a trio with drummer Roberto Gualdi, so the next album is just the three of us. It’ll be coming out later this year on Rarenoise Records.
I have various ongoing things; Eraldo Bernocchi and I have plans to do a lot more in various line-ups. With the help of Jon Durant, I am continuing my exploration of Ukrainian folk forms, this time it’s a triple collaboration with vocalist Inna Kovtun, Jon and myself. I’ll be playing live with Gaudi over the summer, as well as guesting with Post Rock duo S’Dang! and I am currently working on a third O.R.k. album with Carmelo Pipitone, Pat Mastelotto and vocalist Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari, who also invited me to be part of his Hypersomniac live shows, we have just been playing the debut shows in Norway, which has been a great experience, with some fantastic Norwegian musicians: Eivind Aarset on guitar, Stale Storlokken on keys, Torstein Lofthus on drums and Nils Petter Molvaer joining us for the Oslo show.
JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?
CE: – I am no musicologist but for sure there are similarities, in the same way that different languages can have similarities, different strands of musical expression have common threads. Lots of music is really a hybrid of different influences,
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
CE: – I go through long periods of listening to nothing except the music I am working on and alternating this with periods of getting my ears round as much as possible. Right now I am in the latter period, with Zu, Zeus! (from Italy), Goat (intense rhythmic Japanese band) Inna Zhelannaya and Glintshake (from Russia) a random selection of gnawa music from Morocco and MeShell Ndege Ocello’s back catalogue and current album all getting a thorough play through my stereo.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
CE: – It would be amazing to be a fly on the wall at the creation of some classic albums, how about taking me back to Columbia 30th Street Studio in 1959 to be present at the birth of Kind of Blue?, or to Schloss Norvenich to hear Can in 1971? Or any Charles Mingus gig? I could go on …
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself …
CE: – How long is now?
JBN.S: – Good!!! Thank you for answers.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan